This is one of the most common questions I am asked by patients. To complicate the matter, recent articles like the one that appeared in the Health Section of the New York Times on January 10th, 2012, titled “Why Ice May Not Be Good for Sore Muscles” may even further confuse people. This article raised some excellent points based on recent research about when, and more importantly, when it may not be good to use Ice.
When to use Heat
Heat can provide temporary relief of stiffness, relax muscles, and stimulate circulation. Heat increases tissue temperature and blood flow by dilating blood vessels, drawing extra nutrients into the area to assist in the recovery and healing process.
Heat therapy is most commonly applied with a moist hot pack, but can also be applied with whirlpools or paraffin baths.
When Not to use Heat
How to use Heat
When to use Ice
Ice or Cold therapy is most often used for acute injuries. When applied immediately after an injury, cold treatment can reduce tissue damage and inflammation. Ice also relieves muscle spasms, and can reduce post-exercise soreness.
Cold therapy can be applied with ice packs, cold whirlpools, or cold sprays, but ice massage has been shown to be the most effective form of cold therapy.
When Not to use Ice
How to Use Ice
Most sources agree that alternating the use of heat and ice has not been shown to have any more benefit than applying ice or heat alone.
The above information has been commonly reported by a variety of sources, although new research is constantly challenging previous information. Please remember that if you have any questions about using Heat or Ice, you should consult your licensed healthcare practitioner.Michael Racca, MSPT is a Licensed Physical Therapist in New York and Connecticut with over 10 years of diverse clinical and management experience in both hospital and outpatient settings. He has extensive experience working with clinic and in-home patients of a wide variety of diagnoses to help them restore their full potential level of function. He has given community lectures on a variety of topics including back education, total joint replacements, injury prevention, and sports performance. Mike has most recently specialized in treating the post-surgical orthopedic outpatient population and has helped many local students and nationally recognized athletes return to their prior level of competition following injury and surgery. Elite Health Services, located in Old Greenwich, (and now Westport!) CT is a world-class provider of certified functional manual physical therapy, personal fitness, golf & triathlon performance training, massage therapy and wellness related services. Our team of highly skilled and dedicated professionals take a no-excuses approach to providing exceptional care and delivering exceptional results. To learn more visit www.EliteHealthServices.